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Branson TIF Commission Unanimously Approves Plan for Aquarium at the Boardwalk

The Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of a TIF Plan that, if accepted by the Board of Aldermen in February, will allow Kuvera Partners to build a 46,000-square-foot aquarium on the long-vacant Grand Palace property.

Kuvera is the owner/operator of the Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center and has been a stakeholder in Branson for 23 years. The group purchased the Grand Palace in 2014 and has done extensive research about the type of attraction that would bring new visitors to the area.

“An aquarium was the hands-down winner,” says Kuvera Partner Tej Sundher. “After eight separate studies by H2R Market Research clearly showed the desire for and economic benefits of an aquarium in Branson, we were convinced to move forward.”

Subsequently, the company established a financing plan for the $51 million project and determined that TIF would be required to make the redevelopment economically feasible. This was verified by the City after a three-month review of Kuvera’s estimated construction costs, operating costs, and projected operating revenue. It was also noted that Kuvera requested only the amount of TIF that was actually needed rather than the entire amount it would have been qualified to receive.

“There are $9.5 million in TIF-eligible expenses, but Kuvera is only asking for $7 million,” according to the “But-For Determination Report” prepared by Springsted, the City’s financial advisors. In its report, Springsted also verified that the proposed aquarium project would not reasonably be developed without TIF assistance.  Kuvera anticipates that the proposed TIF will be retired in 15 years – well in advance of the 23-year statutory TIF period.

The proposed $7 million of TIF reimbursement represents 13.7% of the total construction costs, which is significantly less than the 20% threshold allowed under the City’s policy. Additionally, Kuvera is making a substantial equity contribution of 29.4% of total project costs, nearly twice the minimum amount required by the City’s TIF Policy. Kuvera has already secured a loan to finance the remaining 56.9% of project costs.

If the TIF Plan is approved by the Board of Aldermen, Kuvera Partners will be ready to begin construction of the aquarium immediately for a Spring 2020 opening.

“We’re thrilled to be one step closer to making Aquarium at the Boardwalk a reality. We have every confidence that this project will be successful and that it will be the catalyst for us to develop the remainder of the Grand Palace property, which will not receive any TIF assistance. That means all tax revenues generated from additional development will go directly to the schools and other taxing districts,” says Sundher.

Aquarium at the Boardwalk is being designed to focus on fish and fun, taking guests on an undersea adventure to explore, play, and capture great photos, along with enjoying spectacular views of a wide variety of sea animals.

Kuvera Partners has been working on design and planning with St. Louis-based PGAV Destinations, a firm with deep expertise in aquariums. For over 50 years, PGAV has been designing world class zoo and aquarium exhibits for notable institutions such as Georgia Aquarium, SeaWorld, and Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Zhuhai, China, some of the world’s largest aquariums.

For more information about the proposed Aquarium at the Boardwalk, or to be placed on a distribution list for updates, visit www.AquariumAtTheBoardwalk.com.